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Friday Night Lights: Under Armored

The big headlines in East Dillon this week — if East Dillon had a newspaper, which it doesn’t, because, as we’re constantly reminded, it’s a very poor part of town, and besides, have you been paying attention to the plight of daily papers in this country? — would be about how the football team doesn’t have enough money to pay for new uniforms. Why do they need new uniforms? Oh, that’s right. Because last week Coach, like an Iron John–reading Beavis, encouraged his team to burn their old ones in an oil drum. Way to plan ahead, Coach!

So, the team does a “fun football fund-raiser,” which apparently means pushing a convertible through town while Coach has Tim Riggins discreetly pass out his own money to encourage people to give. (We think this is also how public radio works.) Anyway, the team is in trouble. Especially because the principal of East Dillon — who can definitely find work if an eighties cop film is casting for the role of “short-fused police captain forced to deal with a hothead detective” — is also against them, telling Eric that a new football team is extremely low on the priority list for a new high school in a struggling part of town (true!) and that Coach “wasn’t even supposed to” take this job. Poor Coach! He can’t even catch a break from Under Armor, which needs at least $3,000 to get new unis in time for Friday’s game. Clenching his jaw, Coach writes a personal check for it. We smell trouble!

Back at home, Mrs. Coach is embroiled in an uninteresting plotline with Julie about going to church. Lucky for her, Coach comes home and brings the A-story with him, telling her that the missing check in the family checkbook was $45 for dry-cleaning. Coach! That’s a lie! It’s also fresh in our minds when Coach, after asking Landry (Landry!) to be his new punter, has a tête-à-tête with Luke Cafferty — the talented kid from West Dillon — about his position on the team. Luke feels like Coach doesn’t like him, and hopes he’s not mad at him for all the guff Tami is taking over her decision to send Luke over to East Dillon. Coach just clenches his jaw and scolds Luke, saying “you were doing something knowingly wrong and you got caught.” We think we’ve seen a picture of this scene somewhere before … where was it again? Oh , right, in the dictionary — under “Foreshadowing.”

Meanwhile, Matt Saracen is still working as an indentured servant intern for Richard Sherman, a.k.a. Beatnik Mr. Miyagi. In addition to living in a scrap heap and being an outrageous caricature of the Artist As an American Jerk, Sherman is also a mooch: He makes Matt drive the two of them (in the Saracen pizzamobile, no less!) on a 400-mile journey to visit another scrap heap. Once arrived, Matt, having clearly just watched American Beauty, asks Sherman if he “sees art” in all these random pieces of junk. Sherman then makes fun of Matt, which is the correct way to respond to anyone who has recently seen American Beauty. Later, they go to a bar and play shuffleboard, and Sherman declares “I’m not a dick all the time, Matt Saranan!” He then recites some nonsense claptrap about how all artists have to be miserable and give up on love — and, apparently, bathing. Is it just us, or is this character one obnoxious monologue away from turning into the 2.0 version of Tim Riggins’s fat, ferret-loving roommate from a few years back?

Speaking of Tim Riggins, it seems about time to finally address the snoozy plot he’s caught up in: kinda sorta flirting with Becky, the bread-toasting high-school beauty queen whose mother was the MILF (or MTRDF — “Mother Tim Riggins Did”?) who’s letting Riggs crash in her backyard. Chipper Becky asks Tim to help her choose a dress for a pageant she has coming up — does he like the red or the pink? (Are there a lot of pageants in Dillon? Wait, don’t answer that.) Tim, clearly sensing an inappropriate sexual tension here (the writers are the only other ones aware of it), chooses pink and scurries from the house. Hey, at least Tim is setting a good example by brushing his teeth before bed.

The next day, Tim spends some QT with Luke at practice. Luke is frustrated by the fact that Coach isn’t nice to him (get in line!), and that he’s only been playing defense when he’s a running back. Tim is distracted by Becky, explaining that he’s “renting a room from her mom.” Luke’s eyes widen. “I wish I was renting a room from her mom!” he exclaims. Hey-o! So in addition to being almost 30 and less polite than we thought, Luke also knows his way around a clunky sex metaphor. Welcome to East Dillon, kid!

But back to Coach and the pickle he’s in. After a long night of begging local businessmen for money and a longer night of drinking, he comes home to the sight of Tami doing spreadsheets. Seems like the perfect time to come clean about that $3,000 check, doesn’t it? Tami is understandably pissed, both for the lie and because they don’t even have $3,000 in their account. This is bad, but it’s hard to focus on the bad because Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton go into their spellbindingly awesome “loving couple having a brutally honest fight” routine and we just kinda go with it.

After a sleepless night, Coach is out of the house at dawn, having left an oddly chipper Post-It note. “Love, Me!” it says. Really, Coach? After that fight? And at 6:20 in the morning? That must have been some coffee you made. Anyway, he drives out to Luke Cafferty’s real mailbox, which seems to be located in the part of East Dillon that’s more Little House on the Prairie than The Wire. Quite a diverse town, our East Dillon! Luke is up baling hay or performing some other such farm work. He and Coach have one of the show’s patented Man Confrontations and they agree to be besties: Coach will help Luke achieve his dream of a scholarship and escape if Luke agrees to “lead.”

Also that morning, Tim tells Becky that Luke likes her. Why, Tim Riggins — you gossip! But Tim Riggins, slayer of bar wenches, is new to these high-school politics and isn’t clear about whether Luke like-likes her or just likes her. Either way, Becky is intrigued.

That afternoon, Tami shows up at East Dillon and Eric apologizes. Tami says “honey, don’t ever do that again” and then follows it with “I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time.” And something about those saucerlike eyes widening when she says it — is it getting dusty in here? Is it just us? Or is it just a natural by-product of the smog of downtrodden sadness that hangs over East Dillon?

But away! To the Jerk Patrol Annual Cookout and Key Party held at Joe McCoy’s palatial manse. Over cold ones, some of the junior Jerks are lamenting the loss of Luke, consoling themselves with the knowledge that at least Joe McCoy will soon be turning his Chin of Doom towards “that bitch” Tami Taylor. Gasp! This heresy is the breaking point for Buddy Garrity, who declares he’s “no longer a Panther.” Calling Joe McCoy a “cancer,” he gives it one last “Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can’t Lose” and storms out. Wow! Chills! But that’s not how it’s received by the Jerk Patrol and their wives. They all look pretty nonplussed, actually, probably more interested in whether Mrs. McCoy uses Miracle Whip or regular Hellman's in her potato salad. (We’ll never know because Janine Turner doesn’t seem to be on the show this season. I guess Joe had the party catered. Damn you, Joe McCoy!)

And, oh yeah, Julie has a mean confrontation with Beatnik Mr. Miyagi where he calls her Matt’s “ball and chain” which totally ruins their tofu dinner date. Matt even races back to the scrapyard to tussle but is distracted by some metal that looks like an angel and is supposed to be beautiful. Dude, if you dump Julie over this hoary struggling-artist nonsense we’ll never forgive you.

Game time! Shiny new uniforms have (somehow) arrived! Not that they’re much help: Late in the fourth quarter the team isn’t bleeding (hooray!) but is losing 27-0 (boo!). (Side note: How is Tami at this game? Isn’t her school’s team playing tonight, too? Uh, not to take Joe McCoy’s side or anything, but ... ) Anyway, the Lions have a shot at a touchdown (and some dignity) but Vince refuses to block for Luke Cafferty. This leads to a SUPER INTENSE screaming match with Coach replete with buckets of flying spittle. Man, ever since he left Baltimore, Wallace is really bringing it! Finally, it’s up to Landry (Landry!) to score the team’s only points via a field goal. Y’know, Landry: the town nerd turned murderer turned BBQ enthusiast turned punter. Oh yeah: and now place kicker too. Well, why not! There aren’t that many main characters on the show, after all. The snap is muffed but Landry manages to shovel the ball to Vince, who scores as time expired. 27-7! We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2! Just like you draw ‘em up, right Coach?

So: Are you fascinated by Julie’s religious turmoil? Were you also charmed by Landry’s flirty punting lesson with Jess? Tater Tell us!

Alan Sepinwall also notices that Landry has somehow become the master of all manners of football kickery.
At the A.V. Club, Keith Phipps observes that Joe McCoy is the show's first true capital-V villain.
At TV Squad, Allison Waldman has nothing to complain about! Hooray!

Photo: Bill Records